Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Dorchester County 911, what is the nature of your emergency?
This is Charleston County with a transfer for EMS; we have a female that’s going into labor.
“I couldn’t sleep that night, I couldn’t get comfortable,” Melinda Johnson remembers.
It was April 4, 2013. After watching television while her husband Alfred (A.J.) and four-year-old daughter Kaelyn slept upstairs, Melinda decided to sit in the reclining rocker in the bedroom.
“Around 6 a.m. I woke up and saw her there,” says A.J. “She had the phone in her hand and seemed to be in pain.
“’You okay?’ I asked her, and she said, ‘Yeah, I just feel a little pressure.’”
The baby wasn’t due until April 28. They had weeks yet and Melinda was sure she was having Braxton Hicks contractions.
“Well,” said A.J., “if you need me wake me up.
“I went back to sleep,” he continues, “and woke up about an hour later. She was still in the recliner and timing the contractions…they weren’t as close as they should be [when it is time to go to the hospital] and we had a doctor’s appointment that day at 10 a.m. so we decided to get dressed and be at the doctors when they opened.”
Melinda got in the shower.
“It took me a long time,” she recalls. “And I think the hot water made the contractions come faster. After the shower I was doubled over in pain. It took forever to get dressed.”
The family lived in Eagle Run at the time, behind the Walmart on Dorchester Road.
“I called my sister who lived five minutes away and asked her to come watch Kaelyn,” says A.J.
“And then he jumped in the shower,” laughs Melinda.
“I had a job interview that day at Charleston Police Department,” explains A.J.
A.J. had finished his military service, serving as an officer in the Coast Guard, and had applied for a law enforcement position.
Melinda was a fifth grade teacher at Beech Hill Elementary School.
“Then she went into the bathroom and threw up,” A.J. continues. “It didn’t register, but she had thrown up just before delivering Kaelyn, but she said she was fine. I called my sister and told her to hurry up.
“Then I knocked on the bathroom door and she says, “I think I have to push.’
“I called 911.”
How far along are her contractions?
She’s having them quite frequently.
Has she removed her clothing below her waist?
No, doing that now.
Lay her on her back on the bed or the floor and I am going to tell you how to help deliver the baby.
“I got her from the bathroom to the bed,” A.J. recalls. “We were renting and I didn’t want to stain the carpet.”
Whatever you do don’t come in this room, stay in your room!
A.J. said his daughter kept trying to come into the bedroom and because she likes to be in the middle of everything he was afraid she would try to climb onto her mom or get scared when she saw her mom in pain.
Raise her head with the pillows but don’t let her sit up or go to the bathroom.
The 911 dispatcher’s gentle voice continues with instructions, patiently and firmly, repeating when necessary.
Get some dry towels and get a string or a shoelace for the umbilical cord.
That’s the thing ... I’m the only one here…okay got my towels…got my shoelace
I’m good to go…you got an ambulance coming right?
Yes, it is on its way.
A.J. says he had some Carolina Panthers shoelaces on the closet shelf that he had bought for a costume he was going to make. He found four or five towels. Kaelyn was in her room but the front door was still locked.
He was also on two phones.
“I had 911 on my right ear and my dad on my left…I was trying to keep Kaelyn out, tell my dad he and mom needed to get over here, listen to 911 and tend to my wife,” A.J. laughs, “there was a little pressure.”
Is she pushing?
Are you pushing? No she’s not pushing yet.
Okay, okay, we got mucus coming out and, I believe, that might be the water breaking.
Do you see any part of the baby coming out?
Do I see any part of the baby? No, not yet, not yet. Do you want her to push?
She needs to push with the contractions. You need to place your palm firmly but gently to keep the baby from delivering too fast.
Can you see any part of the baby?
Yes, yes I can see its hair.
You need to support the baby’s head and shoulders and support the baby firmly when it comes out and remember that the baby will be slippery when it comes out...don’t drop it.
I got my parents on the way only thing is that door…I gotta go unlock that door….
Sir, sir, are you still with her?
Yeah I’m still with her, still with her but the only thing is when the ambulance comes I gotta unlock the door!
Sir, there’s nobody else in the house with you?
Nobody but my four-year-old daughter and I’m trying to keep her out.
At this point, A.J. says, unbeknownst to the dispatcher, Melinda said, “go, go, go!” so between her contractions he ran downstairs and unlocked the door.
Okay a little bit of the head is out.
Tell her to push hard to get the baby out…support the head and shoulders.
Tell your four-year-old to unlock the door because you can’t leave her [wife]. Is she still pushing to get the baby out?
Ooh, ooh, ooh, here we go,,,oh $%^! oh $%%!...
Alright, baby’s here.
The baby’s out?
Okay, gently wipe off the baby’s mouth and nose. Is the baby crying or breathing?
There’s a pause on the 911 call, then a thin wail … the baby was crying.
“You know when it started that morning it was exciting and then I went from exciting to reality and after the baby came out, before he cried, a little bit of fear, but I wiped his face and he started to cry,” says A.J.
Okay gently wipe and wrap the baby in the dry towel around its head but not the face. Without pulling the cord tight, put the baby on the mother’s belly. Make sure it is not wrapped around the baby’s neck.
It’s not wrapped around the neck.
Without pulling the cord, tie the string or shoelace around the umbilical cord about six inches from the baby. Tie it tight but do not cut it.
I need you to hold him...just hold him, I need to tie the umbilical cord…just hold on to him, just hold right onto him, I need to, I need to tie, just hold him ...
Okay, you got it yet?
Okay, should I tie it tight or what?
Yes tightly around the cord but do not cut it.
Come in, yeah come in, it’s tied up…Come in, come on in!
Are the paramedics there?
Tell me when they get in the bedroom with you.
They’re here right now sitting on the bed.
Thank you, thank you ma’am.
In the middle of all this, the sister had arrived and quietly gone into Kaelyn’s room without disturbing the activity in the bedroom.
“It seems the whole process only took about 10 minutes,” says Melinda, “it happened so fast!”
“When the paramedics got there they checked her out and the baby and then they asked if I wanted to cut the cord and I said yes. But when I took the scissors, my hands started shaking so bad I could hardly hold them,” he laughs.
Finally, he was able to cut the cord and EMS loaded Melinda and the baby for the ride to Summerville Medical Center.
A.J. took a shower and got dressed in his suit. He had an interview. He says he called the commander and told him what had happened and said he might be a bit late. When asked if he wanted to reschedule, he said, “Absolutely not! I want this job, I need this job.”
He got the job.
Melinda was released in two days but new baby Gavin had to stay for seven. He had trouble maintaining his body temperature and gaining weight.
“SMC was great,” she says. “They let me stay with Gavin in a courtesy room.”
Today Gavin is a robust 10-month-old, scooting around the house, pulling himself up onto his feet. Kaelyn is a bright, beautiful five-year-old getting ready to start school.
“She doesn’t remember the day her baby brother was born,” says Melinda with a laugh.
Melinda’s recollection of Gavin’s birth is much the same as A.J.’s.
“Now it shocks me that we did it ourselves at home,” she says.
“There was no time to panic. It happened so fast, and thank the Lord everything turned out alright. He [A.J.] was great, he was just great.”
“You know what else?” asks A.J. “After we left my mom and sister came back and cleaned the whole bedroom…you would never have known we had a baby in there.”
Melinda laughs and says, “A.J. had just told me a few days before, ‘Last time [Kaelyn’s birth] I saw everything that happened. This time I am not looking! I’ll be there with you, but I’m not looking.”
“It was a once in a lifetime experience,” says A.J. “And I’m glad I had it. But if I were offered the opportunity to do it again, I wouldn’t do it. Of course, if it were an emergency and I was needed, I’d be the first one up but I wouldn’t choose to do it.”
Gavin was about 4 pounds, 12 ounces and 19 inches long.
Melinda is back at Beech Hill as Title I facilitator.
A.J. Is a PPO at the City of Charleston Police Department.
While this is A.J., Melinda and Gavin’s story, it is also the story of a young 911 dispatcher.
This was her first baby. She hadn’t given birth and she hadn’t delivered via 911. Other dispatchers had but not her.
She wasn’t even scheduled to work that day but came in to cover a shift.
Shauna Lloyd, 30, of Summerville was called in to the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center on her day off.
“I was working the police channel when the call came in,” she says.
“It was a father whose wife was giving birth. He was trying to get the other child out of the room while I was trying to walk him through the process.”
Dispatchers have an EMD protocol at their fingertips. EMD, or Emergency Medical Dispatch, is a software program as well as a flip-book that shows dispatchers step by step how to respond and instruct the person on the other end of the 911 call for many different medical emergencies. Delivering babies is just one of them.
Dispatchers also receive intensive training.
In fact, dispatchers have to be ready to handle multiple emergencies at once in a calm, professional manner. Their calmness will travel through the call to the person on the other end.
The DCSO dispatchers personify this professionalism.
“It happened very quickly,” says Lloyd. The only moment [of concern] was after the baby came out but before she heard it cry.
Once she heard the baby cry, she says she knew everything was fine. She proceeded to direct the dad in tying off the cord and had just finished when the paramedics walked in.
“Then I went on to answer another call,” she says.
To Lloyd, it was just part of her job.
But that wasn’t the end of it. On Feb. 25, at the Knights of Columbus annual Patrick O’Brien awards banquet in honor of firefighters, police, rescue and dispatch, Lloyd received the dispatcher’s award for Dorchester County.
“Her calm demeanor, training and professionalism only goes to prove that she is not only an asset to Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office but also to the citizens of this county,” said Dorchester County Sheriff L.C. Knight, when announcing the award.
Lloyd has been with DCSO Dispatch since April 2010.
She delivered her first baby on her third anniversary.